Top 10 Aquarium Plants for Breeding Fish and Raising Fry
If you plan on breeding fish and want to increase the survival rate and growth of the babies, we love using live aquarium plants. They are beautiful and can be used as spawning grounds for parents to lay eggs. They need to be fed daily once the babies hatch. The plants also help grow microfauna so the fry can graze. The plants also filter the water and absorb the toxic chemicals from the fish. Some plants are especially good for raising fry, so we’ve listed our top 10 fluffy and dense plants that fish breeders always use.
1. Java Moss
A pair of pygmy Corydoras, resting on Java moss (Taxiphyllum Barbieri).
Because they are dense enough to cover baby fish and shrimp, java moss as well as Christmas moss, mosses such is their popularity. They also attract microorganisms and mulm for them to eat. For fish that scatter their eggs, mosses have little tendrils that the eggs can easily stick to, and their branching stems help hide them from predation. Java moss, which is easy to grow and requires little substrate, is a great choice for beginners. You can attach it to a wire grid to make it look like a deep, fuzzy green carpet. Or wrap it around driftwood to give it a natural aged look. To keep it healthy, you can add some Easy Green all-in one fertilizer.
2. Pogostemon stellatus ‘octopus’
Pogostemon Stellatus “octopus” is a fast-growing stem plants that can fill up your tank with enough nutrients and low to moderate lighting. Its long, wispy and brightly colored leaves give it its name “octopus”. Tentacle-like leaves can become dense over time, blocking out larger predators and creating small spaces between them.
This plant was originally grown in water (or emersed) at a farm to speed up production. It may have wider leaves than usual when it first arrives. These emersed-grown leaves will eventually melt back, and the plant will sprout new, skinnier leaves that are accustomed to being submerged underwater. When plants arrive at our facility, we begin the process of converting them to their submerged form. To speed up the conversion of your Pogostemon. stellatus, if it is less than half converted upon arrival, you can lift it up to the surface to allow it more light and carbon dioxide (CO2) from air.
3. Water Sprite
Water sprite is another stem plant that grows quickly. It is good at absorbing excess nutrients and helping to prevent algae growth. It can be planted in the ground to form a tall, bushy mound of fine, lacy plants for small shrimp and fish to shelter in. As a floating plant, its leaves grow wider and have rounded tips. It also grows thick roots to provide shelter for their babies and eggs. It prefers the water column to feed and can be fertilized with liquid fertilizers such as Easy Green.
4. Guppy grass
This species originates from North and South America and is so good at breeding fish that it has gained the nickname “guppy grass.” Think of it like nature’s version of the yarn spawning mop. While it can be planted in the substrate, many hobbyists grow it as a giant, floating mass of plant matter. Adult fish cannot reach guppy grass because its stems are densely populated with tufts of small, narrow leaves that interlock. However, the roots can easily be split and propagated. This makes it difficult to ship and less suitable for high flow tanks.
5. Mayaca fluviatilis
Mayaca fluviatilis, a unique species that provides interesting textures to your planted aquarium, is the best choice. This South and Central American species has very fine, small leaves growing all along its stem, making it look like a yellow-green pipe cleaner. In fact, its fuzzy-looking leaves are reminiscent of mosses, which is why it has the common name “stream bogmoss.” While it is easy to care for, it does prefer medium lighting and liquid fertilizer to grow well. Once established, the stream bogmoss grows fairly quickly and will provide a lush hiding spot for both baby fish and shrimp.
Planting vallisneria, or val, is a great way to add greenery to your aquarium. The background plant is a tall, grassy field that can reach up to the top of the aquarium. It provides fish with a secure cover and a safe place to rest their heads. Beginners love this plant because of its easy care, low light requirements, and ability to spread quickly. Vallisneria spreads by sending out runners, which each produce a baby flower at the end. The plantlets eventually become large enough to start their own runners. Once the val has spread all over the world and is well-established it is strong enough to withstand the nibbling by fish like African goldfish and cichlids.
7. Tripartita Hydrocotyle ‘Japan’
We love this unusual plant for its small, clover-shaped leaves and ability to spread its stringy stems along the substrate and hardscape, much like a creeping ivy. It has the versatility to be used either in the foreground as ground cover or draped across driftwood. This species, unlike others on the list, thrives in moderate to high levels of light and would benefit from CO2 injection. Hydrocotyle tripartite “Japan” has a compact and bushier growth pattern that is ideal for hiding tiny shrimp and baby fish in a high-tech planted aquarium. For propagation, trim off any excess height and replant them in a garden.
8. Bolbitis Fern
Bolbitis, also known as the African water fern, is the most common epiphyte plant sold in aquarium hobby. This is due to its thick, texture fronds. Although it takes longer to grow than other stem plants, mature bolbitis can become a large, emerald-green shrub that conceals small fish. This robust plant can tolerate higher pH and GH waters and can be used to grow goldfish, African cichlids, and monster fish tanks. Bolbitis’ horizontal, branch-like Rhizome should not be covered. You can attach it to driftwood, rock or with super glue gel or sewing thread. You can find more information about how to plant epiphytes, and other types of plants, in our quick guide on methods for planting.
9. Pearl Weed
The bright green stem plant pearl weed looks similar to baby tears. However, its longer, more oval-shaped leaves make it stand out. The unkempt growth and small leaves can create a dense jungle for tiny creatures. We recommend that you leave the delicate stems of the pearl weed in its rock wool and dig a hole large enough to accommodate the entire pot in the substrate. This leaves the fragile roots of the pearl weed intact while the plant converts to its underwater, submerged form. This species grows best in medium to high light and can reach the surface. You can trim it to be a background or midground planting.
For hiding newborn fish and eggs, floating plants with shaggy roots work well. Amazon frogbits are a favourite because of their small, round green leaves that look almost like miniature lily pad. Their roots can reach all the way down to the substrate and create the look of an upside-down forest. Since it propagates by sending out runners, the frogbit spreads like a connected web and can be easily removed in large clumps.
A dwarf water lettuce alternative is available. It is a floating plant similar to the one described above. Floating plants grow very quickly and therefore are great at absorbing toxic nitrogen chemicals from the water. However, make sure not to let them cover the entire water surface or else they may out-shade the plants below and reduce the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water.
All of these plants are great at increasing the survival rate of fry and will help you be more successful with your next breeding project. For more tips and tricks on spawning fish and raising fry, browse our collection of breeding articles.